Sustainable Federal Land Management: Protecting Ecological Integrity and Preserving Environmental Principal

59 Pages Posted: 29 Dec 2009 Last revised: 2 Mar 2010

See all articles by Robert L. Glicksman

Robert L. Glicksman

George Washington University - Law School

Date Written: 2008


This article explores the application of the principles of sustainability to management of lands and resources under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. These two agencies operate a mandate to manage the resources under their control to achieve sustained yield. In this context, sustainability has operated to date primarily in an aspirational fashion, as a broad objective of public land management, rather than as a useful management tool or an enforceable constraint on agency management discretion.

The article urges the adoption of amendments to the laws under which the Forest Service and the BLM operate to make them more consistent with the core function of sustainability - to ensure that the valuable environmental services provided by the lands and resources these agencies manage remain unimpaired for both present and future generations in the face of both natural disturbances and human use. In particular, it recommends that Congress recognize that federal lands and resources are held by the multiple use agencies in trust for the benefit of present and future generations and that it create a mechanism by which private citizens or public interest groups may sue the agencies if they waste trust assets or otherwise breach their fiduciary obligations to the American people. The article explores what the agencies’ core trust responsibilities should entail and provides examples of management standards that either Congress or the agencies might adopt to codify those obligations to assist judicial review of alleged breaches of fiduciary duty. In particular, it points to the certification processes created by the Forest Stewardship Council and the Fisheries Stewardship Council, coalitions of non-governmental organizations that promote sustainable forest and fisheries management, as possible models for transforming sustainability from an aspirational objective to an enforceable mandate to which the Forest Service and the BLM can be held accountable when they make specific resource management decisions.

Keywords: sustainability, sustainable development, multiple use, federal lands, public lands, Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, public trust, federal land management agencies

Suggested Citation

Glicksman, Robert L., Sustainable Federal Land Management: Protecting Ecological Integrity and Preserving Environmental Principal (2008). Tulsa Law Journal, Vol. 44, p. 147, 2008, GWU Law School Public Law Research Paper No. 488, GWU Legal Studies Research Paper No. 488, Available at SSRN:

Robert L. Glicksman (Contact Author)

George Washington University - Law School ( email )

2000 H Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20052
United States
202-994-4641 (Phone)


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